The fable of the buried gold

He told his slave to keep 
the secret of the treasure.

The short story The Money Pot is from the book Traveller Tales of China: or, The Story-telling Hongs, written in 1901 by the wonderfully named Hezekiah Butterworth, a prolific 19th Century American writer who wrote many adventure books set in foreign lands, for young readers.

The Money Pot, or Don't Bury Your Gold in Another Man's Wood

There was an old landholder who had a girl wife and a son by a former marriage. He had married the girl because he was lonely; she looked up to him as a father, but was fond of young people, and after a time he became jealous of her association with those of her own age, and reasoned:

"As soon as I am dead she will marry a young man, and my gold will go to make some boor to live in luxury. This shall not be. I will bury my gold and leave nothing but my land on which my girl wife can live. Why should I leave her more?"

So he took with him a trusty slave, and went out to bury his gold in a money pot, and he said to his slave:

"I shall not hide the money in my own wood, but in my neighbor's wood. They might find it in my own wood."

So he went into the wood of his neighbor, who was also his friend, and buried his gold under a lusty tree, where was a hard rock.

And he said to his slave:


"My trusty servant, you have been true to me, and the noblest thing that can be said of any man is that he has a true heart. I want my young son to have my gold, and I would not have my young wife spend it on a second husband. You shall keep the secret of the treasure. When I am gone, and my son becomes of age, take my son here, and show him the place of the money pot, and tell him I loved him and was wise in providing for him."

So they buried the money under the spreading tree at the foot of the high, hard rock.

The old landholder died, and they searched for his gold, but could not find it, and the girl wife married again, and the old man's son became as a common servant to the new husband.

The former wife began to question the slave in regard to the old man's gold.

"It must be hidden on the place, and you must guess where it is," said she.

"If it be hidden on this place, I do not know where it is."

The son grew up and became of age, but the old man's friend and neighbor had died, and the wood and tree and the rock had been sold, and the new landholder of the place was a very testy man, but he had a legal mind, and they made him a judge.

One day the slave said to the old man's son:

"You are now of age, and I have a secret to tell you, — a secret that your father confided to me. I am going to take you to the place where he buried his gold in a money pot. It shall now be yours."

The old slave and the young man went to the wood with a spade, but the girl wife, who was a woman now, saw them going away together, each with a spade, and she followed them at a distance. She had long believed that the slave knew where the treasure was hidden.

She saw them go to the great tree in the wood, and begin to dig at the foot of the great rock. Then she came upon them like a fury.

"I have found you out," she cried. "The treasure was buried here to keep it from me. This shall not be. I will go back and call my husband. The treasure is mine. I will have justice, justice; I have been wronged, and the wrong should be righted."

So she went for her husband, and he came running to the place with a spade. He quickly found the money pot.

''It belongs to the son," said the slave. "It belongs to me," said the wife.

"It belongs to my wife," said the husband, "and I will defend her rights with my life."

"Touch not the money pot," said the wife. "I will go and call the owner of the land; he is a judge, and he shall give judgment in the matter. Stay where you are by the rock."

The three awaited her return. She came back with the judge, the owner of the wood. The latter sat down on the rock under the tree to hear the case.

The slave said:

"My master buried the money pot here for the use of his son when he should become of age. He entrusted the secret to me."

The wife said: "The property of my husband was mine. He hid the treasure away from me and defrauded me. Now to whom does the gold belong?"

"To the owner of the land," said the judge. "It is mine."

The wife shrieked.

"He should not have buried his gold in another man's wood," said she.

"But the slave has been faithful, so I will divide the treasure with him."

The wife shrieked again.

"Never entrust to another man's estate what you should keep for yourself," said she.

The judge kept the treasure for a time, then divided it with the slave, and the slave divided his part of the treasure with the son.

The slave became wise and a counsellor. Among the wise things that he used to say was:

"Never bury your gold in another man's land, — we can never tell what may happen. The changes of life are many. Never fool yourself."
- Biography of Hezekiah Butterworth>>
- Traveller Tales of China: or, The Story-telling Hongs at Archive.org>>
- Traveller Tales of China: or, The Story-telling Hongs at Google Books>>

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